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Dissecting the Media
Lesson Snapshot


Learning objectives
Students will learn to recognize an editorial point of view in journalism and understand how this contributes to the West's understanding of events in the Middle East.

Grade level
9-12

Assessment

Resources

NCSS standards

Time estimate
Parts of two class periods, with homework

  • Part 1: Introduce activity, assign homework
  • Part 2: Review scrapbooks, discuss

What you'll need (see Resources for links)

  • Internet-ready computer and/or current newspapers


Lesson Plan

Part 1

  • Choose a current developing news story on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Alternatively, choose a recent news story on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that developed over at least several days. Good places to look for stories include Web sites, weekly magazines, and newspapers. Many of them are listed in the Resources section.

  • Discuss the concepts of objectivity and subjectivity, and how tone and vocabulary, point of view, sources, and position and length of a story may reveal subtle biases in the news story. Some discussion questions might include the following:

    • What difference does it make if one party is described as attacking while the other is said to be responding or retaliating?

    • Is violence described as terrorism or nationalist struggle?

    • What kinds of adjectives are used to describe the event?

    • What might these choices tell you about the point of view of the author?

    • If photographs are used, what is their impact?

    • Is it possible for any news writing to be completely objective or neutral? Why or why not?

  • Discuss the background to the news story you have chosen with the class. Good sources are included in the Resources section.

  • Have students track the development of the story over a one-week period in several different publications from different regions. Students should collect as many articles as possible on the event from different sources and keep a scrapbook in which they record the date, page, reporter, and length of the story as well as what images, if any, were used and what overall impression the article gives about the people and the region involved.


Part 2

  • Have students bring their scrapbooks to class. Lead a classroom discussion about the differences in the articles from different newspapers, asking students to give concrete examples of how vocabulary, images, placement, etc., might affect the reader.

  • Working in small groups, have students compare and contrast various points of view represented by the articles they have collected. Have them chart contrasting perspectives (for example, pro-Israeli statements, pro-Palestinian statements, and statements they see as non-biased).

  • Discussion questions:

    • Should news and editorials be unbiased? Why or why not?

    • What issues should the reader keep in mind when reading a news story?

    • Why is it important to read several sources before drawing conclusions?

  • Have each group create two editorials, editorial cartoons, or a television commentary that take a recent and related issue and present different points of view about that issue.


Assessment

How well can students demonstrate an understanding of an editorial point of view in a news story?


Resources

Global Connections Essays:


Internet Resources:

  • Palestine, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
    http://www.merip.org/palestine-israel_primer/intro-pal-isr-primer.html
    The struggle over land, and not religious differences, is the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

  • Online NewsHour
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour
    NewsHour is the nation's first and only hour-long nightly broadcast of national news.

  • NOW with Bill Moyers
    http://www.pbs.org/now
    Bill Moyers anchors an hour-long weekly news series offering fresh perspectives and analysis on today's events, issues, and the ideas that are shaping our world.

  • All Things Considered
    http://www.npr.org/programs/atc
    For two hours every weekday, All Things Considered senior host Robert Siegel and his co-hosts present the program's trademark mix of news, interviews, commentaries, reviews, and offbeat features.

  • Arab Stereotypes and American Educators
    http://www.adc.org/index.php?id=283&no_cache=1&sword_list[]=stereotype
    An overview of American stereotypes in popular culture

  • The Jerusalem Post Online
    http://www.jpost.com
    A source of information about Israel, Jewish affairs, and developments in the Middle East

  • Ha'aretz Online
    http://www.haaretzdaily.com/
    Founded in 1919 by Zionist immigrants, Ha'aretz is a daily newspaper with a broadly liberal outlook on domestic and international affairs.

  • Palestine Times Online
    http://www.ptimes.org
    The Palestine Times is a monthly political English newspaper that contains Palestinian news, world news, interviews, and analysis.

  • ArabNews Online
    http://www.arabnews.com/
    ArabNews, the first Saudi English-language daily newspaper, strives to break cultural barriers and unify Arabs and non-Arabs alike in responding to their need for information.

  • New York Times Online
    http://www.nytimes.com/
    The Web site for the New York Times newspaper, with articles updated throughout the day

  • Christian Science Monitor Online
    http://www.csmonitor.com/
    Church ownership and a public-service mission give the Christian Science Monitor a unique journalistic voice.

  • The Independent Online
    http://www.independent.co.uk/
    The Independent is a relatively new (founded in 1986) British newspaper with a mission to take a broader view.

  • Reuters News Service Online
    http://www.reuters.com
    Reuters is the world's largest news and television agency, with 2,498 editorial staff, journalists, photographers, and camera operators in 198 bureaus in 150 countries.

  • Associated Press Online
    http://www.ap.org/
    The Associated Press is a not-for-profit cooperative and is owned by its 1,550 U.S. daily newspaper members. It also serves more than 8,500 newspaper, radio, and television subscribers worldwide.

  • CNN Online
    http://www.cnn.com/
    The Web site for CNN is updated throughout the day. CNN employs a global team of almost 4,000 news professionals.

  • Turkish Daily News Online
    http://www.turkishdailynews.com/
    Turkish Daily News is Turkey's first and only English daily newspaper.


Related Video:


Related Activities:


Extension activities

For a shorter assignment that does not require students to have Internet access, choose three articles on the same event from three of the publications listed in the Resources section. Copy the articles and distribute them to students. Have the students analyze the point of view of the writer, taking into account tone, vocabulary, information given and its placement, sources used, point of view, length of story, placement of story, and images used.

Using online resources provided by public television's Frontline, choose interviews with Middle Easterners and Westerners on the same topic. One good feature, for example, is Terror and Tehran. (www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/tehran/interviews/)

  • Ask students to select two of the interviews (one Western, the other Middle Eastern) that take different positions.

  • Use the transcripts of interviews provided by Frontline to analyze for stereotypical thinking.

  • Ask students to discuss the pros, cons, and consequences of holding each position.

  • Ask students to describe means for challenging each position and points of view.


NCSS standards

Culture

  • Predict how data and experiences may be interpreted by people from diverse cultural perspectives and frames of reference.
  • Interpret patterns of behavior reflecting values and attitudes that contribute to or pose obstacles to cross-cultural understanding.

Time, continuity, and change

  • Investigate, interpret, and analyze multiple historical and contemporary viewpoints within and across cultures related to important events, recurring dilemmas, and persistent issues while employing empathy, skepticism, and critical judgment.

Global connections

  • Explain how language, art, music, belief systems, and other cultural elements can facilitate global understanding or cause misunderstanding.
  • Explain conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations.

For more information, see the National Standards for Social Studies Teachers, Volume I.



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